Various Artists – [Album]

Sunday, 23 January 2011

So, on January 15, 2011 at 3:58 pm, blogger Jay Frank once again broached the perennial question of rock n' roll's vitality. Such dialogues are far from uncommon and, really, the question of whether or not rock is dead is as valid as it has ever been; there's no arguing that rock n' roll experiences a tidal ebb and flow of interest, but this time the numbers support the possibility that the details of rock's demise aren't exaggerated. Here are the numbers for last year:

No new rock album went platinum in 2010.

No new rock album sold over 750,000 copies in 2010.

The highest charting rock album of 2010 peaked at Number 27.

Between five and eight per cent of the top selling songs in 2010 were rock songs – depending upon your definitions of the genre.

That might sound bleak enough, but the songs and artists nominated for Grammy Awards and compiled for Jive/Sony Music/Grammy Recordings' annual retrospective released before the awards gala happens on February 13, 2011 bear little-if-any rock swagger too.

Judging by the 2011 Grammy Nominees disc, pop rules the roost unparalleled this year – but the really interesting thing about that fact from a critical consumer's standpoint is just how narrow the field has become. Sure – bands like Paramore, Train and Maroon 5 all clock in with nominations this year, but the only real rock band )which is to say, “band that has few-if-any real Top 40 leanings or ambitions) in the lot is Arcade Fire (nominated for Album Of The Year) and calling them a conventional rock band might be a stretch too. Beyond those few polite inclusions, pop and adult contemporary are getting all the focus at the Grammys this year. For the under-thirty set, Lady Antebellum (who has received three nominations this year), Cee Lo Green (who has two, and is running against Antebellum for both), Lady Gaga and Katy Perry are all included here, and are represented by the chart-topping smashes “Need You Now,” “Forget You,” “Telephone” and “California Gurls” respectively. From that lot, fans get a reasonably decent mix tape that sums up the year in a totally cost-effective way; those are the songs which have been in heavy rotation since their release and the way they're placed in this set (all before the halfway mark) will offer both instant gratification and satisfaction to passive listeners, and brand appreciation for fans. That's fine enough, I guess, but it's pretty light on the lasting impressions left.

The middle of the 2011 Grammy Nominees comp is the adult contemporary province, populated by the safe and non-threatening heartthrobs (including Adam Lambert, John Mayer, Michael Buble, Bruno Mars and Sade) which each check in with a bit of their trademark sexless posturing and static fun. After that, the aforementioned “rock” acts knock out their best of the year before the cast of Glee gets the final word with a cover of Journey's “Don't Stop Believin',” which has somehow been nominated for Best Pop Performance By A Duo or Group. That's it – fade to black.

It is worth mentioning that there are some great names nominated that were left off of this compilation but, strictly within the context of this set, hasn't anyone else noticed how remarkably homogeneous it seems? Forget about rock for a second (we'll get to that), and ask how poorly hip hop is faring when the only two artists included here are Eminem and B.o.B? That's embarrassing, but Michael Jackson has received a post-mortem nomination for “This Is It” (for best pop male vocal performance) – how many still-performing pop stars aren't offended by the fact that a half-finished demo merits inclusion here, or a nomination in general? Further – back to rock – how is it that the acts  included here (honorable mention to Arcade Fire) even qualify as any credible (read: un-blanched or generally pasteurized) form of the genre? From a totally personal standpoint (and I do take this disc personally), all I see in this selection of 2011 Grammy nominees is a mawkish lack of both depth and substance. It could not be called the best of what the music industry had to offer – not even on the industry's worst day.


Further Reading:

Complete listing of nominees for the 2011 Grammy Awards.


2011 Grammy Nominees
comes out on January 25, 2011. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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